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Ten steps to create a strategic marketing plan

marketing plan graphic

The development of a strategic marketing plan can fuel a business’ success. In fact, it’s just as critical as hiring talented professionals or offering great products and services. 

First, it’s important to note the difference between a marketing strategy and a marketing plan. A marketing strategy outlines an organization’s long-term goals and overall approach to achieving those goals. On the other hand, a marketing plan covers specific actions and tactics to achieve those goals. 

There are three key benefits of developing a marketing plan: 

  • It focuses and organizes promotions to be more coordinated, productive and successful. 
  • It provides one source to collectively consider research, ideas and plans. 
  • It creates a cohesive brand voice, vision and style that defines core messaging and positioning. 

Any business or nonprofit that creates a marketing plan should set a marketing budget that matches goals while also creating a tracking process to chart success. After all, every organization wants to see a return on investment. 

There are four primary periods when businesses approach Priority Marketing for assistance in developing marketing plans: (1) To launch a new business; (2) To introduce new campaign, products, services or categories; (3) To start a new fiscal or calendar year; and (4) To take an existing organization to the next level. 

Priority Marketing President and Chief Creative Officer Teri Hansen, APR, had an opportunity to share insights with members of the Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce. As the featured presenter at the January 2024 Luncheon, Teri offered a step-by-step outline to help attendees market their business. 

10 steps: Creating a marketing plan 

Teri’s presentation was intended to help Southwest Florida businesses get off to a fresh start in the new year. Among the topics she covered were goal setting, branding and developing an integrated mix of paid, earned and owned media strategies. 

Teri outlined 10 steps to create a marketing plan. 

Step 1: Define your offerings 

Be clear about what exactly you are offering. Customers need to know specifics. Create a list of products and services you want to promote, then outline thoughts that cover:  

  • Features 
  • Benefits 
  • Differentiators 
  • Pricing 

Step 2: Define your mission 

Document why you are in business and what you hope to accomplish. Questions to ask yourself include: 

  • Why should customers do business with me instead of my competitors? 
  • What would I like my brand to accomplish? 
  • What are the benefits of my product or service? 
  • Why are my products or services important? 

Step 3: Define your target audience 

Who do you envision purchasing your products or needing your services? Audience characteristics to consider include: 

  • Demographics: age, gender, income, education and location 
  • Professional details: industry, job title and company 
  • Psychographics: personality traits, beliefs and attitudes 
  • Goals: what do customers want to achieve? 
  • Challenges: what are the pain points for customers? 
  • Influences: who are customers’ favorite media outlets and thought leaders? 

Step 4: Conduct a market analysis 

A market analysis describes the total marketing environment in which your company competes. Answering these questions is critically important: 

  • How many businesses offer similar products and services? 
  • Do you consider those businesses as your direct competition? 
  • How large is the market you are serving? 
  • Is the market, as well as demand, growing or shrinking? 
  • What are customers currently paying for similar products and services? 
  • How much would customers be willing to pay for similar offerings? 
  • What does the sales cycle look like in your market? 

Step 5: Conduct a competitor analysis 

Leveraging the direct competitors identified in your Market Analysis, review those competitors to discover opportunities to differentiate your organization. That will drive audiences to choose your organization over the competition. Summarize the competitive landscape by answering these questions: 

  • Who are your competitors? 
  • What are your competitors’ strengths, weaknesses and unique selling propositions? 
  • How does your brand differentiate from competitors? 

Mountains of research data is available online, and oftentimes it’s free. The U.S. Small Business Administration is a great resource for market research and competitive analysis. The U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis are also great sources for official data. Additionally, Google Trends provides helpful databases, as do websites like Statista.com, SimilarWeb.com, Hoovers.com, IBISWorld.com, MarketResearch.com and SocialMention.com. 

Step 6: Define your brand positioning 

Information gathered in the market analysis helps organizations decide how to position the brand within the market. Brand positioning can include: 

  • Outlining your unique selling propositions 
  • Defining what market differentiators to highlight 
  • Specifying what market segments to target 
  • Defining brand voice and tone 

Step 7: Outline your goals 

Priority Marketing develops strategic marketing plans with SMART goals in mind. The acronym stands for: 

  • Specific 
  • Measurable 
  • Attainable 
  • Relevant 
  • Timely 

Checking off each of these goals ensures you’re heading down the right path. 

Step 8: Marketing strategy and tactics 

Finally, it’s time to outline how you will accomplish your stated goals. Strategy determines where you want to go and sets a long-term direction for a business or nonprofit. Meanwhile, tactics determine how you’ll get there and include concrete, time-bound actions you plan to take. Oftentimes, tactics are short term. 

While considering strategies, organizations often tap into these marketing tactics to reach their goals: 

  • Online advertising 
  • Email marketing 
  • Print advertising 
  • Social networking 
  • Blogging 
  • Online directories 
  • Live networking 
  • Search engine optimization (SEO) 
  • Trade shows 
  • Public relations 

Never put all your eggs into one basket. Marketing is comparable to investing; you need a diversified approach and robust portfolio. Integrated marketing consists of three types of media: 

  • Owned media: This is content you create to market your business, product or service. Examples include the website, blog, social media channels, Eblasts, printed newsletters, brochures and collateral, videos, vehicle wraps and in-store signage. 
  • Earned media: This is publicity gained through promotional efforts that are not paid placements and are intended to increase awareness, educate and build credibility. Examples include drafting and distributing news releases and guest articles, pursuing awards and pitching stories to journalists for print, television, radio or online media. 
  • Paid media: This is the media that you purchase. It includes traditional advertising opportunities with newspapers, magazines, television and radio. Digital options include paid search, display, retargeting, streaming/over-the-top (OTT) television and outdoor billboards. 

Step 9: Budgeting 

There is a cost associated with most marketing tactics. Businesses that think strategically will invest a percentage of their gross revenue for marketing. That way, they can scale their marketing efforts as the company grows. Keep these thoughts in mind when developing a budget: 

  • Be adaptable: increase or decrease your budget based on competition and market conditions 
  • Be cost-conscious: optimize low- or no-cost marketing strategies 
  • Be resourceful: consider free tools, templates and advice that are available 

Step 10: Define metrics and KPIs 

The final step when creating a marketing plan is deciding what metrics to use when evaluating your campaigns. Determine what Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are most important. Some examples include: 

  • Conversion rate 
  • Customer acquisition cost 
  • Website traffic 
  • Click Through Rate (CTR) 
  • Social media engagement 
  • Customer lifetime value 
  • Customer retention rate 
  • Search engine ranking 
  • Media impressions/reach (for public relations) 

Look at your marketing campaigns and tactics to decide what metrics will be best for showcasing results tied to your goals. 

RELATED: Marketing tips for entrepreneurs 

A working document 

Marketing plans are never set in stone. Technology evolves. Media shift. Don’t be afraid to tweak the document when necessary, or even try a new approach – whatever it takes to connect with your target audience and be successful. 

Looking for marketing experts to help your business or organization thrive? Please give us a call today at 239-267-2638 or send an email to LetsTalk@PriorityMarketing.com. 

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